The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) was formed in 2017 with the role of carrying out independent investigations into NHS-funded care to improve patient safety in England, making recommendations to improve systems and processes.
HSIB is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care but operates independently from it and the CQC. It's not a regulator, nor is it responsible for assessing professional practice.
The purpose of HSIB's investigations is to identify any common themes when something has gone wrong and to influence systemic change within the NHS, rather than to apportion individual blame. HSIB gives details of completed and ongoing investigations on its website.
HSIB was asked to carry out maternity investigations as part of a national action plan to make maternity care safer, and currently undertake approximately 1,000 maternity investigations a year, improving the rigour and quality of investigations into term stillbirths, serious brain injuries to babies and deaths of mothers and babies.
Here, we answer members' questions about taking part in a maternity investigation.
Do I have to participate in an HSIB maternity investigation?
You'll be asked for your consent to allow the investigators to obtain relevant information about you and to record your version of events. However, it's important to bear in mind that the GMC expects doctors to cooperate with formal inquiries and states that you must offer all relevant information.
What happens during an HSIB interview?
The purpose of the interview is to ask you about your recollections of the incident and to give you an opportunity to clarify certain points, allowing the investigators to have a full understanding of what happened.
Interviews are conducted by neutral investigators and the reports produced do not name individuals. The meeting allows you to describe your recollection of events and highlight any mitigating circumstances that should be considered.
With your consent, the interview is recorded to make sure there is an accurate record of the discussion. Audio recordings prevent inaccuracies and misunderstandings arising later on and ensure that the whole interview is captured without the risk of important information being lost, which could have a detrimental effect on the overall investigation outcome.
The interview is intended to be a safe place where staff can speak freely, so the ability to learn lessons and improve future care can be maximised.
Can I bring someone along with me to the interview?
Attending external interviews like this can be stressful, even in a supportive environment, and HSIB says you can bring someone with you for support. It is essential, however, that the supporter doesn't interfere in the process. They should be someone with whom you can comfortably express your feelings and be open.
A successful outcome for an investigation is dependent on collaboration between the investigators and with medical staff and their colleagues across the healthcare system.
We're on hand to support doctors called upon to provide information to the HSIB. We suggest members contact us before attending the interview so that we can provide specifically tailored advice and support.
For a more in-depth introduction to HSIB, you can read an interview with its chief investigator in the MDU journal.
This page was correct at publication on 21/04/2022. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.